A criminal chief inspector from North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) has raised mishandling allegations against the German Interior Ministry and the German Criminal Police Office, along with its Berlin branch, in his testimony to the investigative committee of the deadly 2016 terrorist attack on the Christmas market in Berlin.
The man, whose identity remains concealed, reportedly said during questioning in the German parliament that an official from the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) had told him that NRW's informant who had alerted investigators about the attacker-to-be Anis Amri before, "creates too much work". The conversation allegedly happened on the side-lines of a meeting at the Federal Attorney General’s Office on 23 February 2016, months before the terror attack.
He reportedly also told the witness that this opinion was shared at the "very top”. Asked about who was meant by "top", the official allegedly said that it was the Interior Ministry – or its then-head Thomas de Maizière, a member of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union – and the senior criminal director of the BKA's State Protection Department.
According to the policeman, this conversation left him "stunned and shocked", prompting him to reach out to two prosecutors right away. He was reportedly under the impression that his colleague from the BKA, known to be a very competent official, had conveyed this opinion about Amri in the same way as it was given to him.
Berlin Overlooked the Danger?
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung cites the NRW policeman as saying that his office had made it clear to the central office and their colleagues in Berlin, where Amri often was at the time, that the informant was credible and had been working for them for many years.
"If an informant, who was the only source of signals about the danger from Anis Amri, had been silenced, and if it was on the interior minister’s initiative, that would be a shattering scandal", Chairman of the Investigation Committee Benjamin Strasser said, noting that the questioning of ex-Interior Minister de Maizière has now become inevitable.
According to the witness, officers from North Rhine-Westphalia had repeatedly pressed Berlin for months prior to the attack, where Amri was "relatively neglected”, from their point of view. Another officer from North Rhine-Westphalia, who was also heard as a witness, said that she had "considered Amri dangerous and unpredictable". Taking his radical statements and his quick shift to the German Salafist scene into an account, she was convinced that "one must keep an eye on him". She noted that she had a "bad feeling” when she learned that Amri was no longer being closely watched in Berlin.
‘Don’t Let it Be Amri’
According to the chief inspector, when he heard about the attack, his first thought was, "what all my colleagues were thinking, don’t let it be Amri”. He pointed out that Amri was known to have had a "private audience" with hate preacher Abu Walaa and was considered to be someone that the police officer had expected to carry out an attack “at any time". Incidentally, the informant in question also provided the NRW state police with data on the investigation into Abu Walaa’s group, which is to face trial in Celle.
Ministry Denies Allegations
The Interior Ministry has rejected the accusations brought by the official from NRW. A representative said that it could be ruled out that then-Interior Minister de Maizière or leading BKA employees would have issued such instructions.
Amri, who was a rejected asylum seeker from Tunisia, first lived in North Rhine-Westphalia after he entered Europe in 2015 at the height of the refugee crisis, when hundreds of thousands fled to Germany from the Middle East under Angela Merkel’s “open borders” policy. There, he joined the circle of Abu Walaa, who allegedly ran the Daesh cell in Germany and encouraged young Salafists to travel to join the terrorist group abroad. In March 2016, Amri moved to Berlin. Several months later, in 2016, he rammed a truck into a Christmas market in the German capital, leaving 12 people dead and dozens injured. He was killed days later in a shootout with police near the Italian city of Milan, where he had fled to from Germany.
*Daesh (ISIL/ISIS/Islamic State/IS), a terrorist group banned in Russia and a wide number of other countries.